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Constipation is an extremely common problem.
About 20 per cent of Americans are thought to be affected, resulting in 8 million doctor visits a year (1, 2).
This can be caused by foods you consume or avoid, changes in lifestyle, medicine, or disease.
But the origin of its persistent constipation is still unclear to many people. The term chronic idiopathic constipation is used here.
Constipation is characterized by under three movements of the intestine per week.
It may also include other unpleasant effects, however, such as discomfort when going to the toilet, abdominal bloating and pain due to hard, dry and hard to move stools.
Unfortunately, constipation may have a significant negative effect on quality of life and on your physical and mental health (3, 4, 5, 6).
There are also natural methods to help in alleviating constipation. You can do so in the comfort of your own home and science also supports the majority of them.
Here’s 13 natural home remedies for constipation relief.
Drink more water
Periodic dehydration may cause you to become constipated. It’s necessary to drink enough water and stay hydrated to prevent this (7, 8, 9, 10).
You might try to find relief when you’re constipated by drinking some carbonated (sparkling) water to help you rehydrate and get things going again.
Some studies have shown that sparkling water is more effective at relieving constipation than tap water. It involves people with chronic idiopathic constipation or bowel irritable syndrome (IBS) (11, 12, 13, 14).
Do not continue to drink more carbonated drinks like sugar soda, however, because they are a poor option for your health and can make your constipation worse (15, 16).
Bottom line: You can get constipated by dehydration so make sure you drink enough water. Perhaps more powerful can be the sparkling water.
Eat more fiber, especially soluble, non-fermentable fiber
Constipated people are also advised to increase their consumption of fibre (17, 18).
It is because it is assumed that the fiber intake would improve the bulk and strength of bowel movements, making them easier to pass through (19)..
Indeed, one recent study found that 77 per cent of people with chronic constipation have benefited from fiber supplementation (20).
However, some studies have found that increased fiber intake could actually worsen the problem (21).
Other studies have found that while dietary fiber can improve bowel movement frequency, other constipation symptoms don’t help. Which include the consistency of the stools, discomfort, bloating and gas (19).
- Insoluble fibers: Found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. They add bulk to your stools and are thought to help them pass more quickly and easily through your digestive system.
- Soluble fibers: Found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables. They absorb water and form a gel-like paste, which softens your stools and improves the consistency.
Studies into the efficacy of insoluble fiber as a constipation remedy is inconclusive (22).
This is because in certain people with a functional bowel problem, such as IBS or chronic idiopathic constipation (23, 24), insoluble fibre will make the problem worse.
Some fermentable soluble fibers may also be ineffective in the treatment of constipation, because they are fermented by bacteria in the gut and lose their capacity to retain water (25).
A nonfermentable soluble fiber, such as psyllium (26, 27, 28, 29, 30), is the safest option for a fiber substitute when constipated. Different marks are available online.
You will try to eat a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibers to avoid constipation. The minimum recommended fiber intake is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men (25, 31).
Bottom line: Try to eat more food. You may also add a soluble non-fermentable fibre such as psyllium to your diet.
Studies have shown mixed findings on the effect of exercise on constipation.
Indeed, several studies have shown that exercise doesn’t affect bowel movement frequency (32).
Nonetheless, some interesting findings were found in a recent randomized controlled trial on constipated persons with IBS. It found that exercise decreased symptoms dramatically (33).
Other research showed similar results for this group of people as well (34).
While several studies have shown that exercise doesn’t affect the amount of times people go to the toilet, some constipation symptoms tend to be reduced (35).
If you are constipated, then try going for regular walks. It’s definitely worth a try.
Bottom line: Exercise may reduce the symptoms of constipation in some people, although the evidence is mixed.
Drink coffee, especially caffeinated coffee
Coffee will raise the desire for some people to go to the bathroom. This is because the caffeine in the digestive system activates muscles (36, 37).
In fact, one study found caffeinated coffee can stimulate your gut the same way a meal can. This effect is 60% stronger than drinking tea, and 23% stronger than drinking coffee decaffeinated (38).
Coffee can also contain small amounts of soluble fibers helping to prevent constipation by enhancing your gut bacteria’s balance (39, 40, 41).
Bottom line: Coffee can help to relieve constipation by relaxing the intestinal muscles. It may also contain small amounts of soluble fiber.
Take Senna, an herbal laxative
The herbal, laxative Senna is widely used for constipation relief. It’s available online or over – the-counter, and can be taken orally or rectally (42).
Senna contains a variety of plant compounds called glycosides, which activate your gut’s nerves and promote bowel movements (43, 44).
Use Senna for brief periods of time is generally considered safe for adults, but if the symptoms don’t go away after a few days, you should check with your doctor.
Senna is not usually recommended for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding or with other conditions of health, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
Bottom line: The herbal laxative Senna is a common remedy for constipation that is available over-the-counter. It can stimulate the nerves in your gut to speed up bowel movements.
Eat probiotic foods or take probiotic supplements
Probiotics can help in preventing chronic constipation.
Individuals with chronic constipation have been found to have a bacterial imbalance in their gut.
Probiotic foods are thought to help strengthen the balance and avoid constipation (45, 46).
By developing lactic acid and short-chain fatty acids, they may also help to relieve constipation. Those can boost the movement of the stomach, facilitating the passage of a stool (47).
A recent analysis found probiotics tend to treat functional constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements and enhancing the quality of stools (48).
You could consider a probiotic supplement, as an alternative. Taking it daily for at least 4 weeks is usually advised to see if it has any beneficial effects (49).
Bottom line: Probiotics can help relieve constipation in chronic conditions. You can try to eat probiotic foods, or take a supplement. Supplements should be taken at least four weeks a day to see how they function.
Over-the-counter or prescription laxatives
You can speak to your doctor or pharmacist about choosing an effective laxative (50, 51).
They may recommend one of the following types:
- Bulking agent: These are fiber-based laxatives used to increase the water content of your stool.
- Stool softener: Stool softeners contain oils to soften the stools and ease their passage through the gut.
- Stimulant laxative: These stimulate the nerves in your gut to increase bowel movements.
- Osmotic laxative: Osmotic laxatives soften your stool by pulling water from the surrounding tissues into your digestive system.
Some of these laxatives should not therefore be taken routinely without talking to the doctor first.
Bottom line: Try to think about an appropriate laxative with your doctor or pharmacist. There are several different forms of laxatives which can function.
Try a low-FODMAP diet
Constipation can be a symptom of bowel irritable syndrome (IBS).
The low FODMAP diet is a diet that is sometimes used to treat IBS by elimination. If IBS is the trigger, it may be helpful in treating your constipation (52, 53, 54).
FODMAP stands for oligo-saccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols which are fermentable. The diet requires a period of time restricting high-FODMAP foods before re-introducing them to determine the ones you can handle (55).
However, if you have IBS prevailing in constipation, the low-FODMAP diet alone is often not adequate.
You may need to pay attention to other aspects of your diet, such as having enough water and fibre, to achieve relief from symptoms (56, 57).
Bottom line: If you have IBS, a low-FODMAP diet can help you get constipated. That alone may not be enough to provide relief though.
Eat shirataki noodles or take a glucomannan supplement
Glucomannan is a fibre-soluble form. Constipation treatment has been shown to be successful (58, 59, 60).
One child research showed that 45 percent of those taking glucomannan experienced extreme constipation relief, compared with only 13 percent in the control group (61).
Yet another controlled study did not find any major effects (62).
As well as enhancing bowel movements, it has been shown that glucomannan acts as a prebiotic and increases the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut.
If you are feeling constipated, consider adding more glucomannan to your diet. By taking a glucomannan supplement or consuming shirataki noodles made with glucomannan, you will do this.
Glucomannan supplements differ by brand in their benefits, so before making a purchase, it is necessary to compare these.
Bottom line: In certain people Glucomannan can effectively treat constipation. You will get it by eating glucomannan or shirataki noodles to complement it.
Eat prebiotic foods
Dietary fiber improves the strength of the stool and the bulk which may enhance the frequency of bowel movement.
Another way that such fibers can help relieve chronic constipation is through their effects on your digestive health.
Through feeding the helpful bacteria in your gut, prebiotic fibers enhance the digestive health. That can increase the gut bacteria’s balance (63, 64).
In addition, it has been shown that prebiotics such as galacto-oligosaccharides help to increase the frequency of bowel movements, as well as soften stools (65, 66, 67, 68).
Foods rich in prebiotic fiber include garlic, onions, and bananas (63).
Bottom line: Foods containing prebiotic fibers will enhance your digestive health and balance of healthy bacteria in your intestine. Even this will help in relieving constipation.
Try magnesium citrate
Taking citrate from magnesium is a common home remedy against constipation. It is a form of osmotic laxative that may be purchased online or over – the-counter (69).
Taking moderate quantities of magnesium supplements can help relieve constipation. Low doses are often used before surgery or other surgical procedures to prepare and cleanse the bowel (70).
Bottom line: Taking a supplement of magnesium citrate will protect against constipation. Over – the-counter is open.
Prunes and prune juice are sometimes believed as a cure for constipation by nature-and with good reason.
In addition to fiber, prunes contain the natural laxative sorbitol. This is a sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect (71, 72).
Studies have shown that prunes may be more effective than fiber. If you’re constipated, prunes could be the easiest natural solution available (73, 74).
The effective dose is thought to be around 50 grams (about 7 medium-sized prunes) twice a day (73, 75).
However, if you have IBS, you would want to avoid prunes, as sugar alcohols are known as FODMAPs.
Bottom line: Prunes produce the laxative influence of a sugar alcohol sorbitol. The prunes can be a very powerful constipation remedy.
Try avoiding dairy
Because of its impact on your gut movements, a dairy intolerance can in some circumstances trigger constipation. (76, 77, 78).
In certain cases, kids with a cow’s milk protein intolerance and adults with lactose intolerance can experience constipation (79).
If you think you may be intolerant to milk then you may be able to briefly try to remove it from your diet and see whether it will improve your symptoms.
Also make sure that other calcium rich foods replace the dairy in your diet.
Bottom line: Intolerance to milk or lactose can cause constipation in certain individuals. If you think that dairy is a concern, try to avoid it for a short time and see if that would make a difference.
Constipation is an inconvenient problem with multiple underlying causes.
If this is an problem for you, then you can certainly consult with your doctor to determine the possible cause and find an appropriate plan for treatment.
That said, many of the natural home remedies in this article may provide significant relief as well.